Activity Overview: 

This unit is designed to expose students to Shakespeare and his works. It is based upon a WebQuest the teacher created to guide the students through the various steps of this learning activity. The students learn about Shakespeare himself, read various condensed versions of his plays, read and analyze sonnets, become familiar with the common vocabulary used by Shakespeare, and discover the climate of England in that time period. The class is split into troupes of five to six students. Each troupe writes and performs its own play. The students are also members of committees for publicity, props, and costumes. This exposes them to the world of theatre and helps them realize how powerful their written words can be when combined with other aspects theatre.

North Tama Community School District Language Arts Department 
Standards and Benchmarks relevant to this activity:

*  Standard 1.  All students will develop an appreciation of literature  that will foster habits to become lifelong learners.  
*  2.  All students will demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process for a variety of purposes.  
*  3.  All students will demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
*  4.  All students will write with a command of the grammatical and mechanical conventions of composition.
*  5.  All students will write effectively for a variety of purposes.
*  6.  All students will speak effectively for a variety of purposes.
*  7.  All students will demonstrate effective listening skills for a variety of purposes. 

*  The fifth grade students will develop an appreciation for Shakespeare and his literary works.
*  The fifth grade students will analyze and decode passages to increase their understanding of the Old English writing style.
*   The fifth grade students will use proper grammar and writing mechanics as they complete a wide variety of writing assignments.
*   The fifth grade students will be able to explain the difference between tragedies, romances, and comedies and then use that understanding when writing their own specific type of play.
*   The fifth grade students will be able to define sonnets, alliteration, and similes and write them in context.
*  The fifth grade students will develop an appreciation for their own writing as they see and hear it performed for an audience.
*  The fifth grade students will communicate effectively and use problem-solving strategies as they work in their cooperative troupes to complete assigned tasks.
*  The students will be exposed to a wide variety of technological tools, use them effectively, and increase their confidence in using technology to enhance their learning.

This unit is designed to expose students to Shakespeare and his works.  It is based upon a WebQuest I created to guide my students through the various steps of this learning activity.  The students learn about Shakespeare himself, read various condensed versions of his plays, read and analyze sonnets, become familiar with the common vocabulary used by Shakespeare, and discover the climate of England in that time period.  The class is split into troupes of five to six students. Each troupe writes and performs its own play.  The students are also members of committees for publicity, props, and costumes. This exposes them to the world of theatre and helps them realize how powerful their written words can be when combined with other aspects theatre.

(Note:  This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)





Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators  -

The following activities were videotaped:

The students will listen to a recorded monologue from a CD that contains Shakespeare’s works and watch a video clip of the same scene. They will be asked to share what they know about what they have just seen and listened to.  They will also be given a worksheet that lists several phrases taken from Shakespearean works and asked which sayings they have heard previously.


Grades 3-5: 8

The teacher will explain the meaning of WebQuests and why they are used to enhance learning.  The students will read and discuss the Introduction, Task, and the first activity in the Process section of the WebQuest.


Grades 3-5:7

The teacher will review the two basic types of questions (factual and inferential) and ask for examples of each from the students.  The teacher will then ask the students to brainstorm a list of questions (some from each type) that would be pertinent to learning about Shakespeare. The teacher will record these on the dry erase board.  The students will choose 6 factual and 4 inferential questions to answer.



The teacher will ask students to work with their assigned partners.  The teacher will then give the students time to research the various Web sites listed under the first task to begin to find answers to some of their questions.  The teacher will also demonstrate how to copy only the information wanted from a Web site and paste it into a word processing document to print out only what is necessary.

English Language Arts: 1, 3, 7, 8

Grades 3-5: 5, 7

The teacher will explain the process for writing a short research paper and the typical contents for each paragraph. The students will be asked to list what questions they are answering in each paragraph and record that information on the outline handout they receive. 



The students will look at the Assessment section of the WebQuest for the first activity.  They will read and discuss the scoring rubric. The teacher will encourage the students to use the rubric to help them as they begin to think about what should be included in their paper.



The students will then be given more time to collect information from the provided Web sites.

English Language Arts: 1, 2, 3, 8


The students will begin to interpret the information they have found and make decisions about whether or not it should be included in their paper.  They will also decide where the pieces of information fit on their outline.  They will be asked to make a list of the information they still need to answer all of their questions and what resources they may use to find that information. 

English Language Arts: 3


The students will continue to work on this assignment and will be encouraged to engage in the revision step of the writing process during the next two days.



The following activities were not videotaped:

The students will discuss the different types of plays Shakespeare wrote.  In small groups they will read plays from each of these categories and then discuss their similarities and differences within the large group.  They will then demonstrate that knowledge by creating a Venn Diagram concerning the three plays they read and discussed.

English Language Arts 1, 2, 3, 7, 8


Arts: Theatre, Grades 5-8: 5



The students will discover the class system, society, government, and main historical events of this time period.  They will present oral reports over their findings.



The students will discuss alliteration and similes.  They will be given examples of these two types of writing forms and then be asked to write their own examples of each.



The students will discuss the rhyme pattern found in sonnets. The students will analyze a few short sonnets and rewrite them in the language more commonly spoken today. The students will then write their own sonnets following the same rhyme pattern used by Shakespeare.



The students will then work within their troupes following the five step writing process (prewriting, rough draft, peer edit/ teacher edit, revise, final copy/publish) to write their own short play. 



The students will learn about the main parts (and their purposes) of the Globe Theatre. They will also develop a general knowledge of the various people involved in a theatre production and their roles and responsibilities. The students will write a historical fiction story from one of two perspectives. They will either write as an actor performing a Shakespearean play in the Globe Theatre or as someone coming to watch one of his plays in the Globe Theatre.



The students will select to work on one of the following committees: publicity, props, costumes.  Each committee will have specific duties and responsibilities they must meet to ensure the success of the performance.



The students will rehearse their plays.



The following activity was videotaped:

The students will perform their plays for family members and other community members.  The performances will also be videotaped and critiqued by William Shakespeare. 




Cayne, B. (1984).  The book of knowledge.  Danbury, CT: Grolier.

Claybourne, A. & Treays, R. (1996).  The world of Shakespeare. London: Usborne Publishing.

Ganeri, A. (1999).  The young person's guide to Shakespeare. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Holdridge, B.  (1986).  Under the greenwood tree: Shakespeare for young people. Owings Mills, MD: StemmerHouse.

Nesbit, E. (2000).  The children's Shakespeare.  Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers.

Web sites:
Absolute Shakespeare.  Absolute Shakespeare.  Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

All  (2000). All Shakespeare.  Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

BBC.  (1988).  Listen and Write.  Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Bernhardsen, M. Shakespeare Directory. Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Clemson University.  Clemson University Virtual Globe Tour. Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Encyclopedia Britannica.  Shakespeare and the Globe:  Then and now.  Retrieved October 13, 2001 from  Retrieved October 31, 2001 from

Internet Shakespeare Editions.  (March, 1996).  Internet Shakespeare Editions. Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Miller-Schutz, C.  (February, 2000).  Shakespeare's Globe Research Database. Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Primary Resources.  (1997).  Primary Resources.  Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Shakespeare Resource Center.  (1997).  Shakespeare Resource Center.  Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Sherman, S. Shakespeare Dictionary.  Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Spradley, D. (1994).  Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Teacher Created Materials:
Martin, T. (October, 2001).  Shakespeare: A WebQuest. Retrieved October 13, 2001 from

Sayings Worksheet 

CD player

Discovering Shakespeare: An interactive journey through Shakespeare’s life and times.  (1995).  Minneapolis, MN: IVI Publishing.  This CD is both Mac and Windows compatible.

Ganeri, A. (1999).  The young person's guide to Shakespeare CD.  New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.  This CD came with the book and contains explanations and voice recordings of many of Shakespeare’s more notable passages and sonnets. 

BBC. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. (Video) 

Each learning activity will be assessed using a rubric.  All of the rubrics will be based on the same four-point scale, but will include different criteria, depending on the activity.  The students have access to these rubrics from the very first day we start the unit and are encouraged to use them as a guide on how to complete each assignment. 

Teri Martin, Student Teacher, University of Northern Iowa

Karla Krueger, Curriculum and Technology Specialist, University of Northern Iowa

Chris Rhinehart, Cooperating Teacher, North Tama /Traer Elementary School 

Nick Pace, Student Teaching Supervisor, University of Northern Iowa

Brian List, Web Specialist, University of Northern Iowa 

Scott Brons, Web Specialist, University of Northern Iowa 

My students are not reenacting this activity.  This is a new way of learning and new material for them.  I am planning for this unit to take about six weeks.  We have ninety minutes a day for reading and language arts.  Most days I will use three-fourths of that time strictly for this unit.  Other days I may use only half of that time and spend the other half learning new reading and writing skills not connected to this unit.  Because this unit is not taken from the textbook series used by my school, I have tried to incorporate many of the skills in the unit from the textbook into the WebQuest.  This will allow most of the necessary skills to be taught, discussed, and assessed in a new way, especially since most of them are review.

I have never created or used a WebQuest or taught this activity before, so I am very excited about learning along with my students.

Technology Resources:
All of the technology resources I used were chosen because they were available at my school.  The WebQuest can be completed on any computer with Internet access.  I am lucky to be working in a fairly new and well-equipped Mac lab with which the students are familiar. 

North Tama Elementary School is located in Traer, Iowa. The town of Traer and the surrounding area has a population of approximately 2500 people.  Many of the community members are farmers or are occupied in what would be considered blue-collar jobs.   There are two local factories, which employ several people, as well as many downtown businesses.  Some community members travel to Waterloo or Cedar Falls for employment, while others travel to Tama to work in the Mesquaki Casino.  Despite its size, the community is very stable.  The school district has had its ups and downs with enrollment, but the next few kindergarten classes will be larger than usual, which will help the K-12 enrollment to remain constant.

There are currently 275 students enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade.  Out of those 275 students, forty-three qualify for the free or reduced lunch program.  Seven students come from a racial/ethnic background different than Caucasian.  The parents of the elementary students, as well as other community members, are very supportive of the school.  Almost ninety-six percent of parents attend parent-teacher conferences.  There are many parents who volunteer to assist teachers in the classroom and in other school-related activities.  Parents and other community members provide financial support through fundraisers, sports boosters, and music boosters.  The local businesses and factories also donate needed supplies and funds to the school on a regular basis.

Teaching Strategy:
I chose to use a WebQuest with my students for many reasons.  I know how much students enjoy using technology in their learning and daily activities, so the students’ motivation played an important role in my decision.  I also knew I wanted to use many Internet resources throughout the unit and it simply made sense to have the outline of the unit be on the computers as well, so the students would have all or at least most of their needed information in one place.  In addition, I had never created or used a WebQuest before and thought it would be a good experience for me to try this in a fairly controlled setting and while I was still under the guidance of other teachers.  At the University of Northern Iowa we are encouraged to take risks and explore various ways to teach students of all learning styles. Using a WebQuest seemed to fit in with both of those ideas. 

I have my students working individually, in partners, and in troupes or groups of five to six students.  I know that some students prefer various grouping arrangements over others, so I wanted to provide the opportunity for my students to work in a setting that was both comfortable to them as well as out of their comfort zone.  In the real world there are times when we have to work by ourselves when we would rather work with others and vice versa.  I want my students to have experiences that will help prepare them for those times when they are forced to be flexible. 

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity   
(Note:  This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

Active Involvement: My students experience Active Involvement every day because they are constantly seeking answers to the problems posed in each activity of the WebQuest.  I can provide only minimal whole class direct instruction. I expect my students to actively search for needed information.

Frequent Feedback: I provide my students with Frequent Feedback by questioning them about their thought processes.  I also help students edit their pieces of writing and ideas as we follow the 5-step writing process.

Compelling Situation: The scenarios on which the WebQuest is based is a very Compelling Situation.  The students’ main project will be viewed by parents, siblings, peers, and other community members.  They will also be critiqued by the very person about whom they’re studying.  Before they can even think about that part, the students must learn more about several other related topics. Because this is a new way of learning, and the students will be demonstrating their learning to so many others, the students want to do a good job.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making: Because the students do quite a bit of research, they must use their Critical Thinking and Decision Making skills.  They have to analyze a lot of new information and decide what information is important to include.

Thinking Together and Making Meaning:  My students demonstrate Thinking Together and Making Meaning during small group and whole class discussions. Much of the content in this unit is new to my students, so they must work together to understand it well. 

Individual Responsibility and Civil Involvement with Others: While the students are working with their partners, they were demonstrating Civil Involvement with Others.
They had to make many decisions together and listen to the opinions and ideas of their partners.  The students also had to divide up tasks to ensure that they would finish the activity on time.  The students also displayed Individual Responsibility as they each took charge of different parts of the activity.  

Information Processing:   
Appreciation:  The students demonstrate Appreciation as they verbalize the importance of Shakespeare’s works in today’s society.  The students use the Sayings Sheet to identify common phrases that they recognize, which were invented by Shakespeare.  We also listened to the balcony scene from The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet on a CD and then watched the same scene on a video.  The student began to realize that even though it is sometimes difficult to decipher Shakespeare’s language it is much easier to understand the storyline when you watch it unfold. 

PreSearch:  The students next entered the PreSearch stage.  The students were introduced to the WebQuest and first activity, which is a written report on William Shakespeare.  We then discussed the four parts of a written report and what information is contained in each of those sections.  The students were then informed that they would be answering factual and inferential questions in their reports, so we defined those two words with examples and discussed the difference between them. The students began to brainstorm a list of questions for each category that they could research and include in their report.  The students listed these questions on the dry erase board and then selected which questions they wanted to research. 

Search: After selecting their questions, the students used the provided Web sites to begin their Search.   They worked with their partners to locate needed information and copy and paste it into AppleWorks.  At the end of our Search time, the students printed off their information.  

Interpretation:  While browsing the Web sites and reading over the printed out material, the students demonstrated Interpretation.  They had to interpret the information they were reading to decide if it was pertinent to answering their questions and if the information was factual or questionable.  The students compared their findings with other students and debated discrepancies in their search for factual information.  The students also filled out an outline for their report.  After interpreting the information, they had to decide where the information best fit into their paper and then write it in the corresponding section of their outline. 

Communication:  The students worked from their outlines to write the rough draft of their reports.  This is an example of theCommunication stage of Information Processing.  They used their written words to communicate the information they had gathered and interpreted.  After I read through their rough drafts and made comments about how the papers could be improved, the students made corrections and then word-processed the reports to create their final drafts.   Many of the students asked if they could read their reports to the class and we will do that if time permits.  

Evaluation:  The students were shown the rubric that will be used to assess their reports and process shortly after the activity began.  They had unlimited opportunities to refer to that rubric to double-check their own work and to ensure that they would receive the score they wanted.  The students were also encouraged to compare their final reports with the rubric before handing them in to be assessed. 

Teacher Knowledge:    
Knowledge of Student Characteristics:  Even though I have only been teaching at this school for two weeks and this is the first lesson I have taught to these students, I have had many opportunities to observe the students and discuss them with my cooperating teacher.  Together, we discussed what types of activities are appropriate for these students and what I could expect from them.  These students like to be given responsibility for their assignments and freedom to use their own creativity while learning about a topic.  All of my activities require that the students learn the same basic information, but their presentations of that information can be adapted to suit individual students’ desires.  I have also learned that these students are very active and social.  They enjoy working with others and excel in groups of mixed ability. 

Teacher’s In-Depth Content Knowledge:  I know I will be learning along with my students concerning the specifics of Shakespeare’s life, but I have had a passion for the elements of Shakespeare’s writings since I first studied them in high school. I also majored in theatre for two years and became very familiar with several of his plays and characters.  My biggest challenge is not simply knowing the content to teach to the students, but finding a way to make it real and come alive for them.  They cannot simply read his works and understand them well enough to teach themselves.  They need a lot of scaffolding, so I try not to just focus on what I want my students to learn, but what in their lives is related to that new knowledge that I can use to help form connections.

Student Characteristics:
The students in my classes are very energetic and excited about new topics and activities.  They enjoy working in groups and verbally expressing their ideas with others.  My students vary in reading abilities and enthusiasm.  I have four students who receive help every day from the resource teacher.  I also have three students who have been identified as talented and gifted. All of my students are very creative and enjoy the opportunity to relate what they are learning to real-life situations. 

Evolution of the Activity:
Last May I visited my cooperating teacher to learn more about her classroom and the school.  She explained the main goals for fifth grade students and her curriculum for the year.  She gave me the freedom to design my own unit that met those instructional goals.  I have spent a lot of time studying the Core Knowledge Sequence and knew that Shakespeare is introduced in fifth grade.  Because I have a big love for theatre and had many ideas about how Shakespeare fit in the North Tama Curriculum, I chose to make him the main focus of my unit.  I had been exposed to WebQuests numerous times at the University of Northern Iowa and could see how they can enhance learning if used properly.  I felt that this was the time to try something new, while I was under the guidance of my cooperating teacher.  I worked with Karla Krueger, Curriculum and Technology Specialist at the University of Northern Iowa, to understand the basics of creating a WebQuest and the types of activities that would work well with my students.  I also received technical support from Scott Brons and Brian List, students at the University of Northern Iowa, as they taught me the basics of Front Page.  I am sure that after I teach this unit, I will look for ways the WebQuest can be improved and will then change it accordingly. 

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology